Contributed by Shivani Bothra
The Aṇuvrat Movement is a non-sectarian moral movement emphasising character development through self-effort. It was conceived by Ācārya Tulsi (1914–1997), a celebrated monk, the ninth religious leader of the Śvetāmbara Terāpanth sect and a socio-religious reformer. Ācārya Tulsi launched the Aṇuvrat Movement in March 1949 at Sardarshahar, a small Terāpanthi-dominated town in Rajasthan.
Horrified by the detonation of nuclear bombs in Japan in 1945, Ācārya Tulsi established a non-religious organisation to promote peace and improve individual morality. He hoped to encourage Jain values, especially ahiṃsā – non-violence – and to eventually create a more virtuous country through individual behaviour.
Designed to be open to followers of all religions, the Aṇuvrat Movement was built upon the traditional Jain practice of aṇuvrat – lay vows – which evolved from the original teachings of Mahāvīra, the 24th Jina. Ācārya Tulsi modified the traditional aṇuvrat vows to formulate a set of 11 new vows for the Aṇuvrat Movement.
The aim of the movement is self-transformation through one's own efforts, to help develop a healthy society and, eventually, an ideal nation characterised by peace, social justice and sustainability. The Aṇuvrat movement is founded on the Jain doctrines of:
The slogan 'Self-restraint is life' captures the core philosophical idea behind the movement.
As the Aṇuvrat Movement spread across India, Preksha Meditation and the Science of Living were established to support it. Other sets of vows for certain groups in society, such as students or peasants, and to aid the practice of Aṇuvrat were also created, especially the Aṇuvrat Sādhanā.
The Aṇuvrat Movement was conceived in the mid-20th century, during the important period after World War II, when India gained independence.
Ācārya Tulsi was inspired to create the Aṇuvrat Movement for two principal reasons. Firstly, he wanted to divert humankind from the path of destruction that had led to the nuclear bombings of Japan. He wished to introduce the non-violent Aṇuvrat Movement as an antidote to mass violence. Secondly, he was disillusioned by the selfishness, over-competiveness, over-consumerism and maximisation of profits by wrong means he saw in the newly independent republic of India.
Ācārya Tulsi held that the problems of violence, human rights, poverty and the environment cannot be solved all at once. Instead, he thought that he could use the concept of 'lesser vows' for the individual, borrowed from the Jain tradition, to develop a framework for social improvement that is achieved through personal action.
From the beginning, Ācārya Tulsi, along with his core group of monks, designed the Aṇuvrat Movement to be a non-religious organisation open to anyone. The main goal is to purify the soul of the individual, which will eventually produce a more morally upright society.
Ācārya Tulsi took painstaking efforts to be inclusive in his modernisation of Jain principles. He realised that religious teaching alone is not enough and that action is also required. He believed that the idea of vows as action, which has its roots in Jain traditions, could be an effective tool for social change in secular society as well.
The following three factors were central motives for his new model:
A person from any caste, religion, creed, background or nation could be an Aṇuvratī – a follower of the Aṇuvrat code of conduct. An individual’s personal religious belief or eating habits are not considered an obstacle to following the Aṇuvrat code of conduct.
Thanks to its non-sectarian outlook, the Aṇuvrat Movement is one of the most powerful secular Terāpanth activities. It connects political leaders, thinkers, the media, religious organisations and ordinary people in India.
The prime objective of traditional Aṇuvrat vows, as explained in the 11th-century Śrāvakācāra – Householder’s Conduct – by Ācārya Amitagati, is liberation of the soul – mokṣa. The objective of the Aṇuvrat Movement is purification of the soul. In this way, Tulsian vows were a new approach to generating the spirit of self-restraint among all people.
The Aṇuvrat Movement is a social extension of an ancient spiritual tradition going back to Mahāvīra, the 24th Jina. Through the movement, Ācārya Tulsi was instrumental in taking Jain principles outside the Jain community.
The vows that comprise the Aṇuvrat Movement can be framed within the traditional 'five fundamental vows' of the Jain faith. Ācārya Tulsi aimed to make Jain values, and wider moral principles, more relevant to contemporary Indian society.
Preceptor, teacher. A title given to a Jain religious teacher, usually one who is a head monk.
The principle of non-violence that is one of the five chief vows of Jainism.
A term used by Digambaras for thinking about the 12 topics that stress the negative nature of the world of rebirths and that help to overcome it:
A practice for internal self-improvement, such as meditation or reflection. It is also the term for:
Hindu society is traditionally divided into numerous jātis or classes, which are usually grouped into the four varṇas – often called 'castes' – of:
Relating to ritual purity, castes are hereditary and probably based on occupation. Members of different castes performed particular socio-economic roles and did not mix or eat the same food. People outside the caste system were usually looked down upon.
Groups of people historically considered outside the caste system of India. In traditional Hindu society, they were 'untouchable' or ritually impure because they carried out unpleasant tasks such as cleaning toilets or sweeping streets. Mahātma Gandhi used the term Harijan, meaning 'children of God', for the various Dalit groups. The lowly social and economic status of Dalits – officially termed 'Scheduled Castes and Tribes' – has improved since the Indian constitution abolished longstanding discrimination against the 'untouchables' but many still suffer prejudice.
A god or divine figure, often with physical powers beyond those of a human and with superhuman abilities.
Not feeling attached to any things, people or emotions in the world, whether positive or negative. Jains believe that detachment from the world is necessary to progress spiritually towards the ultimate aim of freeing the soul from the cycle of rebirth.
Duty, religious codes or principles, the religious law. Jains think in terms of dharma or underlying order in the universe.
Related to this, the term is also used for the true nature of an object or living entity. For example, the dharma of:
The 15th Jina of the present age is called Dharmanātha or Lord Dharma. His symbolic colour is gold and his emblem the vajra – diamond thunderbolt. There is no historical evidence of his existence.
Sanskrit for 'meditation', one of the six internal austerities or tapas that help purify the soul of karma. Meditation is deep thought about religious doctrine or mental focus on spiritual matters over a period of time. An important part of many religions, meditation is especially important in Jain belief because it forms key elements of religious practice and spiritual development.
From the Greek term meaning 'scattering or dispersal', the word 'diaspora' describes large groups of people with shared roots who live away from their ancestral homes. They have usually moved because they were forced to by other groups, because they have fled war, famine or persecution, or to improve economic opportunies. They usually have strong emotional, religious, linguistic, social and economic ties to their original homeland.
Follower of the majority faith in India and an adjective describing something belonging to Hinduism. Hindus have numerous gods and diverse beliefs and practices, though many believe in the soul, karma, the cycle of births and liberation. Roughly a billion Hindus comprise the third largest religion in the world.
With its independence from the British Empire on 15 August 1947, India became a secular, sovereign state. The date of 15 August is a national holiday in the Republic of India.
Follower of the 24 Jinas or an adjective describing Jain teachings or practices. The term 'Jaina' is also used although 'Jain' is more common.
Sanskrit for 'self', 'soul' or 'that which is sentient'. It makes up the universe along with ajīva, or non-sentient material substance. It is a material substance that changes in size according to the body it inhabits in each life. It is born in different bodies in various places in the Jain universe based on karma from earlier lives. The soul is liberated from the cycle of birth when it has achieved spiritual purity and omniscience. Also called ātma or ātman.
'Absence of concern for the body'. This commonly refers to a standing or sitting posture of deep meditation. In the standing position the eyes are concentrated on the tip of the nose and the arms hang loosely by the body. The individual remains unaffected by whatever happens around him.
Believers in a religion who are ordinary worshippers, not clergy or members of religious orders. In Jainism, lay people are often called 'householders', indicating that they live in houses and have domestic responsibilities, unlike ascetics.
Karmic stain, the colour of which indicates a soul’s degree of purity. There are traditionally six colours:
Also one of the 14 'gateways' or categories of investigation of mārgaṇā or 'soul-quest'.
The 24th Jina of the present age. His symbolic colour is yellow and his emblem the lion. Mahāvīra or 'the great hero' is his title. His birth name was Vardhamāna, meaning 'ever increasing'. His existence is historically documented but the two main sects of Digambara and Śvetāmbara Jains have slight differences in their accounts of his life.
Often known by his title Mahātma – meaning 'Great Soul' – Gandhi (1869–1948) was one of the leaders of the struggle for Indian independence. Influenced by the Jain notion of ahiṃsā, his policy of peaceful non-co-operation was a key factor in the British withdrawal from India.Gandhi's non-violent civil disobedience continues to inspire activists around the world.
The 'liberation' of the soul from its body and thus from the cycle of rebirth because it has no karma and becomes omniscient. The ultimate aim of Jainism is to achieve mokṣa and become a liberated soul in siddha-śilā.
A man who has taken a public vow to withdraw from ordinary life to formally enter religious life and advance spiritually. Frequently, monks perform physical austerities or undergo physical hardships in order to progress spiritually.
Sanskrit for 'homage formula', the Namaskāra-mantra is the fundamental religious formula of the Jains. A daily prayer always recited in the original Prākrit, it pays homage to the supreme beings or five types of holy being:
Note that chanting the mantra is not praying for something, material or otherwise. Also known as the Pañca-namaskāra-mantra or 'Fivefold Homage mantra', it is also called the Navakāra-mantra or Navkār-mantra in modern Indian languages.
A religious communication offered by a believer to a god or object of worship. It may:
Sanskrit for 'worship' or 'homage'. All Jains perform rites of honour to the 24 Jinas. Rites of worship take place daily, with more elaborate ceremonies performed on holy days. Mendicant and lay Jains perform different rituals. Some sects worship images – mūrti-pūjaka – and others do not, and different sects have various practices. Focused on images or not, worship can be:
The annual four-month rainy period in India, lasting roughly from June / July to October / November. Heavy rain, strong storms and gale-force winds are very common during this period. Mendicants cannot travel around and must stay in one place to avoid breaking their vow of non-violence and because the monsoon makes travelling on foot difficult and dangerous. It is known as cāturmāsa in Sanskrit, comāsa in Hindi and comāsu in Gujarati.
A special category of nuns in the Śvetāmbara Terāpanthin sect. The nuns are officially free from certain rules restricting their movements and can visit institutions in India or go abroad to pursue academic research or minister to the Jain diaspora.
Sanskrit for 'community'. The Jain ‘fourfold community’ is composed of monks, nuns, lay men and lay women.
A classical language of India, originally used by priests and nobility. Sanskrit has a rich literary and religious tradition. With only a few thousand native speakers nowadays, it is predominantly used in Hindu religious ceremonies and by scholars.
An organised group of believers in a religion, often distinguished from other groups within the same religious faith who have differences of doctrine or practice.
Term for either everyday or material life, not the spiritual, or for a social or political system that concentrates on the material world, rejecting spiritual or religious influence. A secularist believes that religion has no place in fields such as education and politics.
A speech on a religious topic, usually delivered by a member of the clergy. Frequently a sermon has a moral lesson or is based on a sacred text.
The Indian or South Asian subcontinent is a term for the geographical area roughly covering modern India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Vows are extremely important in Jain religious life. Mendicants take the compulsory Five Great Vows – mahā-vratas – as part of their initiation – dīkṣā.
Lay people can choose to take 12 vows, which are divided into:
All of these vows are lifelong and cannot be taken back. The sallekhana-vrata is a supplementary vow to fast to death, open to both ascetics and householders.